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Handwashing With Soaps in Schools Before Midday Meal

Introduction




Handwashing with soap before the government-supplied Mid-day Meal (MDM) is important because children are the most energetic, enthusiastic and open to new ideas and change. As powerful agents of behavioural change, children can take lessons they have learned at school back home to teach their parents, siblings and elders on good hygiene behaviours such as handwashing with soap.

The Mid-Day Meal which is a government flagship programme operational in all schools across India serves nearly 110 million children in 1.3 million primary and upper primary schools . It provides an excellent opportunity to influence hygiene practices of children particularly handwashing with soap before meals. Learning this simple, but lifesaving habit in school, also means that children can inculcate this among other household members too.

Fast Facts·        

  • Washing hands with soap at critical times – after using the toilet, before eating and preparing food – reduces the incidence of diarrhoea.
  • Handwashing with soap can reduce the incidence of acute respiratory infections (ARIs) by more than 20 per cent.
  • Handwashing promotion in schools can play a role in reducing the number of days children miss school. Studies reveal that promotion and distribution of soap in primary schools result in more than 50 per cent fewer days of absence among students compared to schools without such an intervention.
  • Studies show that handwashing with soap in primary schools and day care centres reduces the incidence of diarrhoea by an average of 30 per cent.
  • Handwashing with soap is one of the most cost-effective interventions to prevent diarrhoea-related deaths and disease.
  • Health costs due to hygiene-related diseases can be reduced by good hygiene habits such as handwashing with soap.
  • Washing hands with soap at critical times – after using the toilet, before eating and preparing food – reduces the incidence of diarrhoea.
  • Handwashing with soap can reduce the incidence of acute respiratory infections (ARIs) by more than 20 per cent.
  • Handwashing promotion in schools can play a role in reducing the number of days children miss school. Studies reveal that promotion and distribution of soap in primary schools result in more than 50 per cent fewer days of absence among students compared to schools without such an intervention.
  • Studies show that handwashing with soap in primary schools and day care centres reduces the incidence of diarrhoea by an average of 30 per cent.
  • Handwashing with soap is one of the most cost-effective interventions to prevent diarrhoea-related deaths and disease.
  • Health costs due to hygiene-related diseases can be reduced by good hygiene habits such as handwashing with soap.


    Group Handwashing 

    It is a path breaking innovation that can potentially improves the education and health outcomes of  110 million children who have mid-day meal daily, across the country. Group Handwashing ensured that all children wash hands in ‘groups’, stand facing each other, exchanges positive messages, make ‘eye to eye’ contact and enjoy the process. Making this happen on an every-day basis before Mid-Day Meal in every school of the country, leads to a new ‘social norm’ around handwashing before meals..

    These hand washing stations are simple, scalable and sustainable, and rely on usage of minimum water, while the facilities are developed using local materials. The Mission institutionalises group hand washing with soap sessions before the mid day meals are served, which is supervised by teachers, MDM cooks and also by Child Cabinet members.

    This institutionalized approach also has the potential to address the key bottleneck around availability of adequate WASH infrastructure and soaps in schools. Every school in India will be moving from a scenario of one or two handwashing stations, to group handwashing facilities with soap, and a daily practice of washing hands before eating meals in schools.

    Group handwashing with soap before the mid-day meal is also an important component of Government of India’s Swachh  Bharat Swachh Vidyalaya – ‘Clean India: Clean Schools’ campaign. 

    UNICEF supports the campaign which aims to achieve universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene in schools in India. The campaign has been launched to ensure that every school in India has a set of functioning and well maintained water, sanitation and hygiene facilities. critical times: before eating and after using the toilet. Sanitation and drinking-water safety are other key issues mentioned during this activity.





    Case Study 1

    Mother’s Groups Take Active Role In Promoting Handwashing 
    For mothers like Shaivali Devi and Jamuna Devi, it’s hard to tell the exact date when they became involved in the school but they say it started only after the Group Handwashing initiative was implemented - Read More

    Case Study 2

    Washing Hands Together for a Better Future

    At the Rani LP School in Assam, the practice of hand washing is followed every day. And for the school headmaster, Suren Chandra Mazumdar, it is a matter of pride that his students keep up this simple yet important practice.  - Read More

Big Picture

Fast Facts on handwashing before Mid-Day Meal

Findings of an assessment conducted in 540 schools in nine Indian states on the Mid-Day Meal (MDM) scheme reveal that:

  • Only a little over half (51 per cent) of the schools had a designated handwashing space and in 44 per cent of the schools observed the handwashing space was being used.
  • Nearly half (49 per cent) of the students washed their hands using only water. Only 42 per cent students used soap
  • Only 12 per cent of schools had soap available at the handwashing space.

    Another study conducted in 392 schools in seven Indian states reveals that only one third (32 per cent) of the children wash hands with soap before eating
 

Global Handwashing Day: Much more than just a day

Global Handwashing Day(GHD) aims at increasing awareness and understanding of the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent disease.

Governments around the world are taking action to promote handwashing with soap on Global Handwashing Day and throughout the year. In India, GHD has been integrated by the government into its cleanliness campaigns to promote handwashing in schools, Anganwadis and communities. Millions have been reached with the message of handwashing with soap through these initiatives.

Celebrated each October 15th, Global Handwashing Day was initiated in 2008 by the Global Public Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap, and is endorsed by a wide array of governments, international institutions, civil society organisations, NGOs, private companies and individuals around the globe.

In India, it is run in partnership with state Education departments and department of Rural Development or Water Supply and Sanitation. UNICEF India provides support in developing resource materials, teachers guide books and reference materials on handwashing with soap.

However, the vision is of institutionalising this practice before the Mid Day Meal in ALL Schools in India, so as to reach 120 million children in 1.4 million schools in India.